By Ogden Parent Robert Murphy
My son Dale has been on The Ogden FIRST Robotics Team the last two years, and I must say that for him it has been a haven. He isn’t interested in most sports. Computers and tinkering has always been his fancy, although I could tell that he longed to feel part of a team. The robotics team provided that, and more. As a mentor to the team I had the pleasure of witnessing his, as well as many other children's growth, and would like to share my experience.
First off, there isn’t enough that can be said about mHUB, and their generous gift to us to use their space for our practices. All good sports teams utilize a good gym, and a tech incubator as impressive as mHUB is the best possible place for a robotics team to meet. The kids are completely immersed in tech from the moment they walk in!
The practice sessions are goal oriented, yet with a focus on core values *see team core values. They begin with the children sitting around a conference table (sorry, but it’s adorable!) and discussing goals for the day, as well as reciting the daily core value. They then split into teams (the last two years the team has split into two teams) and groups (task oriented, ie coder, robot designer, presentation work) within those teams. The coach also has special team building, communication strengthening activities that are thrown in throughout the season.
Lastly are the competitions, and when it comes down to it, this is what it’s all about. After months of designing a robot to traverse a task-filled obstacle course by way of the children’s coding, it is put to the test against other schools in a lively arena setting. There is one scrimmage, and then one official meet, in which winners are selected to move on in the season. It’s exciting, nerve-wrecking, and fun!
But unfortunately for the children, it isn’t all fun and robots. The children are encouraged to think bigger, and the league implements a sense of social responsibility into the competition. The teams are not only scored by the performance of their robots, but on robot design, a surprise team-building exercise, and a presentation about a creative solution to a common global problem, derived from a common theme given to all of the competing schools at the beginning of the season. The 2017 theme was Hydrodynamics, and my son’s team pitched (through an informative skit) using fog catchers attached to filters to combat drought.
If it sounds amazing, it’s because it really is. I witnessed our kids step up and act like executives, engineers, designers, coders, and project managers for the sake of a common goal, and with school pride!
That being said, the unsung heroes are the parents who volunteer their time to make it all come together, but especially our coach, Mr. Clifton Muhammad, who stepped up to the plate to make the robotics team happen for his daughters many years ago, and has remained on board to guide our kids until today.
This blog has contributions from a variety of faculty and staff at Ogden International.